Footnote Credit: Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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Feb. 23: Closing ‘option’

The School Board votes to close three low-performing schools this fall but says

it may not shut them if the community can develop plans for new schools in the

next four months. The board says its move provides options for communities,

but critics call it unrealistic. “How can we recreate a school in four

months when CPS has been unable to do it for years?” asks teachers union

President Marilyn Stewart. Previously, the district closed schools for a year

before re-opening them and accepting students.

Feb. 24: Parochials

The closings of 23 parochial schools could lead to an influx of hundreds of

students at CPS schools that are already overcrowded. Many of the schools that

will close are in Latino communities, where schools are already overcrowded.

Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of CPS enrollment. Principals are bracing

for more students but say they are worried about how to serve newcomers. Only

27 percent of children whose parochial schools close enroll at another Catholic

school, according to an Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman.

March 3: Desegregation

Federal attorneys take CPS back to court, saying the district is doing such

a poor job of complying with the desegregation decree that an outside monitor

is needed. CPS contends a monitor isn’t necessary. Federal lawyers say

CPS has not offered sufficient bus transportation to minority students to attend

largely white schools, and has not reallocated enough desegregation money to

racially isolated schools. Court documents also cite other concerns, including

the racial makeup of faculty. (See

related story)

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San Diego: Reform rollback

The School Board has angered school leaders and the teachers union by eliminating

the jobs of about 170 master teachers, who acted as coaches for classroom teachers

and helped with lesson planning, according to the Feb. 10 San Diego Union-Tribune.

The board also voted to scrap the positions of content administrators, who organized

training and supervised teachers. Both positions were a key component of reforms

championed by outgoing Supt. Alan Bersin, who sought to focus on improving teacher

training and called the board’s decision a mistake. Teachers and principals

said master teachers had helped to raise achievement, and some schools plan

to continue paying for the positions with discretionary funds. The board created

positions for “academic support teachers” who will work only in

low-income schools, primarily teaching small groups of low-achieving youngsters.

New York: Billions for schools

A judge has put a multi-billion-dollar price tag on improving education in the

city’s schools, ordering that $5.6 billion be spent every year to insure

that children receive the ‘sound education’ guaranteed by the state

constitution, according to the Feb. 15 New York Times. The judge, who

has been overseeing a long-running lawsuit over school funding in the city,

also ruled that an additional $9.2 billion be spent over the next five years

to reduce class sizes, relieve overcrowding, update laboratories and libraries

and other improve schools. The legislature will decide how the state and the

city should share the burden of the costs.

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“Englewood is like a home to me. You’re trying to

shut down my home. I have teachers who care about me and give me a reason for

coming to school everyday.”

Englewood High School student Latoyia Kimbrough at the Feb.

23 School Board meeting, where the board voted to phase out the school and stop

accepting freshmen.

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Can a 15- or 16-year-old student who left school but never graduated

from 8th grade return to school in the middle of the school year?

Sally Polasek, Illinois Dept. of Human Services

Depending on their age, they should be able to return mid-year

to achievement academies, neighborhood elementary schools or high schools. Achievement

academies are meant to transition overage kids (those turning 15 or older by

Dec. 1st but who have not graduated from 8th grade) to regular high schools.

Kids who turn 15 after Dec. 1st must return to their neighborhood elementary

school to finish 8th grade. Returning students who are 16 must take the Iowa

Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS), and score in the 25th percentile to pass 8th grade

and go on to high school. If they do not pass, they should be sent to their

nearest achievement academy. These guidelines apply even to students returning

mid-year, says Ed Klunk of the Office of High School Programs. According to

Grace DeShazer, manager of achievement academies, students can be denied admission

to the academies under certain circumstances. In that case, it rests on the

neighborhood elementary school to accept them, regardless of their age, which

Klunk admits is “not a good situation either way.”

E-mail your question to

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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African-American students, long the majority in Chicago Public

Schools, are now just less than half of CPS enrollment—49.7%,

according to the 2004 state report card. But that percentage

is the highest of any of the 5 largest districts in the country.

(Chicago is the 3rd largest.) Meanwhile, Hispanic enrollment

in CPS continues to rise and now stands at 38%. Black and Latino

enrollment in the 4 other largest districts is: New York, 35%

and 35%; Los Angeles, 11% and 72%;

Miami-Dade County, Fla. 29% and 58%; and Broward

County, Fla., 37% and 24%.

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